A Story About Heart: The CEA Foundation


I’ve volunteered in community and industry efforts a fair amount in the last 40 years. And, like the rest of you, I sometimes wonder if my efforts are really making a difference. You know how it is: you go to the meetings, you step up in a committee action, and progress inches along.

That’s why I’m thrilled to have found an effort that is making a monumental difference for a cause that’s near to my heart: bringing technology to seniors and people with disabilities in ways that enhance their lives. With a very spry 85-year-old mother, a father lost to Parkinson’s (dementia), and two parents-in-law with Alzheimer’s and varying aging disabilities, I see a dramatic need for our elderly. What if my wife, Vicki, and I weren’t around to be advocates and involved with our parents? The very people who were once leaders of our society too often fall into a chasm of loneiness. They become victims, disconnected from others, and the world seems to have passed them by.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The story really starts with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) receiving an unexpected windfall in 2009 from an old relationship with the Electronics Industries Alliance (EIA). When money falls into your lap, you want to find the best use for it! Jay McLellan, my friend and business associate, was serving on the CEA executive board at the time and recalls suggesting the possibility of starting a foundation to help a worthy cause.

Under the leadership of CEO Gary Shapiro and then Chairman Gary Yacoubian, the board declared an initiative to give back to the community by earmarking funds, applying resources, and setting up a working committee to form a foundation. John Shalam, Chairman of the Board of Voxx International and recognized CEA Hall of Fame inductee, took the helm as Chairman for The CEA Foundation. I’m humbled and honored to be a founding trustee. Our mission is to link seniors and people with disabilities to technologies that enhance their lives.

John Shalam, CEA Foundation Chairman Emeritus with Shirley, a Selfhelp community member .
John Shalam, CEA Foundation Chairman Emeritus with Shirley, a Selfhelp community member .

In the three years sinceĀ announcing its first grant, the CEA Foundationhas utilized the startup funding provided by CEA to provide grants to nonprofits that use technology to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities and older adults. That means organizations likeSelfhelp can address social isolation among America’s homebound elderly (can you imagine what it would be like to live a productive life and then wind up isolated inside your own home?). A CEA Foundation grant helped this organization create “virtual” senior centers, where seniors can take part in live classes, engage in hosted museum tours, interact with peers on current events, or even do yoga. But that’s just one example. Organizations like OATS, Hearing Loss Association of America, and Raising the Floor have also received grants, and done equally innovative things.

We are touching lives and making a difference. I know so many of my contemporaries are dealing with the issues surrounding aging parents. We have skin in the gameĀ – mainly, our hearts. This work fills my heart, and it might do the same for you. If you have a few moments, take a look at what the foundation is doing. Please consider giving back, too! In fact, you can donate now.


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